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Ynyslas Slate Hulk Recording 2015

Between 30th May and 6th June 2015, Dyfed Archaeological Trust (DAT) and the Malvern Archaeological Diving Unit/Nautical Archaeological Society (MADU/NAS) will be undertaking further investigations of an eroding wreck site on the bank of the Afon Leri at Ynyslas.

The wreck is one of three in this area, which are all of similar size and shape. They were probably locally built and may have formed part of the Derwenlas slate carrying fleet. It is probable that they were deliberately scuttled in their present locations to mark the entrance to the Afon Leri channel for other seafarers. They may have been scuttled in around 1868 having become redundant after the coming of the railway. The importance of the three wrecks was recognised in 2012 when they were designated collectively as a Scheduled Ancient Monument.

The wreck site is suffering from erosion and was significantly affected during the winter storms of 2013-2014. In 2014 a series of test excavations, survey and recording was carried out by DAT and MADU/NAS. The works determined the size of the eroding wreck and after a bit of a false start, the bow of the boat was located and the width of the wreck determined through a measured probing exercise. Further survey and recording work was also carried out on the other two wrecks establishing that they are all of different sizes.

At the end of last year's work unexploded ordnance was identified on the beach close to the wreck and a further suspicious object removed from the wreck itself, both dealt with by a controlled explosion by the Royal Navy Bomb Disposal Team. In advance of this year's work the team has been given ordnance awareness training and we have discussed the site risks with members of Qinetiq at Pendine (for which we are very grateful).

This season of work will not involve further excavation of the wreck, but will aim to clean the remains to enable a detailed record of the exposed timbers to be made. Further detailed survey and drawn profiles of the wreck will also be made. The aim is to have as detailed a record of the wreck as possible prior to any further erosion of the site.

The work is being funded by Cadw and with the support of Natural Resources Wales.


Click here to view the Ynyslas Hulk 2014 Dig Diary.

Saturday 30th May

The start of a second season of recording of the eroding slate hulk wreck at Ynyslas. We are certainly more cautious and aware of the risk of ordnance at the site and ensure that we do a thorough walk around prior to starting work. We spend the day removing seaweed and algae from the wreck to expose the timbers for recording. The weather is kind to us all day, and we hope that it will continue!

The first walk to the wreck

Flick and Hubert removing seaweed and algae from the timbers


Sunday 31st May

After a very wet morning the weather again improves to allow us to use the low tide window to have a very successful day finishing cleaning of the wreck. This demonstrates much about the construction of the vessel, and actually how much of it must still survive buried in the silts. It also shows us just how many timbers are actually present and how much recording we have ahead of us. By the end of day two our timber recording tally amounts only to 7, before the tide is back in lapping at our ankles and we have to leave site.

The port side of the stern after cleaning, showing a number of frames still in situ, with numerous tree-nails visible which formerly held the outer planking to the vessel

Hubert blends in to the wreck like a chameleon

Monday 1st June

We arrive at site to meet Ian from MADU/NAS and attempt to start work. Only three more timbers recorded before the torrential rain and howling winds beat us. We retreat back our house in Borth. This allows Ian to tell us more about the work that MADU and the NAS do and the work that has been previously carried out on the wreck since Deanna Groom of RCAHMW first recorded it in 2010 which clearly demonstrates the extent of the erosion in just 5 years.

This is meant to be the start of summer!

Waves crashing in on the new sea defences at Borth, not a day for intertidal archaeology.

Tuesday 2nd June

I apologise that these diary entries must seem like a tide and weather forecast, but these are of such importance when working on an intertidal site such as Ynyslas. The rain had stopped today and it was even quite sunny, but the very strong wind remained. We progressed with the recording well although the wind made walking around the site difficult. We also set up a series of tie ropes to secure us to the bank in case anyone was blown into the river, though I am glad to say no one did.

Hubert, Flick, Alice and Ian make good progress with the timber recording, despite the wind

Wednesday 3rd June

The wind has dropped, the sun is out and we have a very productive day. Following a short presentation by Ian in the morning on boat construction we head to site far more confident in our ability to identify the various timber elements of the wreck. Once at site Flick and Alice assist Ian with updating the ongoing MADU/NAS record of the eroding bank of the Afon Leri. We complete the recording of the frames (ribs) of the boat on its port side, and all of the intact frames we can reach on the starboard side. As the tide comes back in we move on to the top of the wreck and record most of the surviving timbers there.

Measuring the river channel edge as part of the ongoing monitoring of erosion by the Afon Leri

Recording the top of the wreck as the tidal waters return (note that the 'captain' has already abandoned ship to take the photo)

Thursday 4th June

Ian finished his time with us today after yet another excellent presentation on fixtures and fittings on boats. I donned my waders to record the stern of the boat today, much to the amusement of the others. This gave us a better view of the shape of the stern of the boat. We also started a detailed timber by timber survey of the wreck.

Farewell and a big thank you to Ian for his help and assistance over the last few days

Jim takes to the water

The view of the stern from within the Afon Leri

Friday 5th June

Further detailed survey and timber recording today. A beautiful day again, but unfortunately the wind returned, which slowed progress a little, but all has gone well by the end of our penultimate day. A small 19th century bottle was found embedded within the wreck.

Collapsed frames (ribs) of the wreck with the outer planks of the vessel underneath

There are certainly worse places to work!




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